Myo armband reads motions to put the world at your fingertips

I’d seen videos of the Myo before I received one. The black wearable device had always struck me as looking cool and slightly futuristic. As someone who speaks and presents often, here was a chance to take my “cool presentation” factor up a notch.

Wearing the Myo, my hopes and dreams faded. Rather than being light and inconspicuous, it felt clunky. It was also cold – I hadn’t noticed the metal sensors in the promo videos. It felt as if I had a bionic arm.

Myo fits snugly around your forearm and uses proprietary technology to convert your hand into a controller. Your hand gestures are sent to a USB Bluetooth adapter plugged into your console or computer. Where Microsoft’s Kinnect turns your entire body into a controller, Thalmic Lab’s Myo turns your forearm and fingers into one. They have removed the need for you to hold a controller or clicker.

I decided to focus on the presentation potential of the band. After a download of the Myo Connect software, the setup began. It took a while and was unsuccessful at first. Calibration guided me through the basic gestures with great tutorial videos but couldn’t detect which gesture was which. Only two out of five were recognised.

“It needs a few refinements.” Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose for the Observer

I guessed that I was the problem and asked a colleague to try calibrating too. For her, it recognised three out of five gestures. I resolved to build more arm muscle, recalibrated and moved on to trying out Myo’s presentation mode.

Middle finger to thumb twice – known as double tap – advances your slides. Wave in (to the left) takes you back a slide. Holding a fist and rotating clockwise will zoom in on the slide. Holding a fist and rotating anticlockwise turns your arm into a pointer. The fifth gesture – which still doesn’t work for me – was to spread your fingers.

This was a lot of fun. My colleague also tried, and we ended up disturbing the office with our squeals of delight. Forward, forward, pointer, forward … Despite having a limited range of recognised gestures, I was ready to try the Myo for real.

A few days later, I spoke to about 150 teenage girls about how great it is to have a career in science and technology. There was a minor panic as I tried to turn on the Myo and get it ready to go. Then, on a few occasions the slides didn’t advance. On the whole, my presentation wasn’t ruined, but it wasn’t my smoothest delivery.

I tried the Myo again at another event and the same thing happened. The girls were suitably impressed by it, although no one wanted to try it on.

It’s a great first version of a device that could do well. It needs a few refinements before it becomes mainstream. I might not rely on it for my next presentation but, if I ever need a pick-me-up, I’ll watch another colleague squeal while trying out my Myo.; £180

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